Colorado's Governor Jared Polis Signs Strong Anti-SLAPP Law And Blocks Damaging Licensing Restrictions
from the keep-it-up,-gov dept
When Jared Polis was in Congress, he was one of the (tragically few) reliably good, principled voices on topics that were important to us here at Techdirt: copyright, patents, encryption and more. Now that he’s governor in Colorado, it appears he continues to do good things. First up, he’s signed an excellent new anti-SLAPP law modeled on California’s gold standard anti-SLAPP law. As we’ve discussed at length over the years, anti-SLAPP laws are a key tool in protecting free speech. They do this in two key ways: by ending bogus lawsuits designed to silence critics by enabling a court to toss them out very quickly (before they get too involved) and (importantly) making it much easier to make the plaintiffs in such cases pay the legal expenses of the defendants they sued. These laws have been in place in about half of the states so far, and they’ve been incredibly useful in deterring lawsuits that have no merit, but are filed entirely to burden the defendants with costs and general chilling effects of being dragged to court.
Colorado joins nearly 30 states that have adopted measures to curb what are called strategic lawsuits against public participation. Witnesses testified during the legislative session about how they?d been sued for libel or slander simply for exercising their First Amendment rights.
The new law allows a citizen to seek an immediate stay of such a lawsuit by arguing it?s motivated by the citizen?s exercise of First Amendment rights. A higher court can order immediate dismissal of the lawsuit, and plaintiffs can be held liable for court costs and attorneys? fees.
Democratic Reps. Lisa Cutter and Shannon Bird and Sen. Michael Foote sponsored the bill, which was modeled after a longstanding California statute that is considered one of the nation?s toughest.
On another issue we’ve talked about, ridiculous occupational licensing laws that go way beyond any “public safety” reason to just block out competition and limit the competitiveness of markets, Polis has responded by vetoing a bill to increase occupational licenses in Colorado. This was a bill pushed by members of his own party, so it’s good to see Polis push back on it. His veto statement is worth reading.
Before any unregulated occupation is to be regulated, or any regulated occupation is to be continued, the state should complete its due diligence to ensure that regulation will, in fact, ensure consumer safety in a cost-efficient manner. This bill does not meet that threshold.
As we have previously noted, occupational licensing is not always superior to other forms of consumer protection. Too often it is used to protect existing professional within an occupation against competition from newcomers entering that occupation. Meanwhile, according to the 2019 Current Population Survey, 24 percent of the national workforce is licensed, up from below five percent in the 1950s. Licensing in the United States over the years has at times prevented minorities and the economically disadvantaged from having the ability to access occupations. When the supply of professionals is restricted, the cost of services increases and the poorest among us lose the ability to access these services.
There’s a lot more in the statement, but that’s the crux of it.
Kudos to Governor Polis. Keep it up.